Posts Tagged ‘Disney+’

Weekly News Roundup (June 9, 2019)

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

Well, that was a longer break than expected. A nice vacation was then followed by the need of a vacation for the vacation, and then a couple of slow news weeks, and here we are!

Even without much news, we’ve been busy adding new trailers to our YouTube channel. Now while we use real 4K content whenever possible, we’re still at the stage of 4K where most trailers are not released in the format. So we have a “special sauce” that we use to upscale it to make it look (and sound) great, unlike other channels that upload 4K trailers that look/sound no better (and often worse) than the original HD version.

Comparison between our "special sauce" upscaled 4K versus basic 4K upscaling
Our 4K quality (left) compared to your standard 4K upscaled trailer – click to enlarge

Of course, your output is only as good as your input, which is why we almost always use ProRes high bitrate (150 Mbps+) sources (not quite uncompressed quality, but close enough) for our trailers. So while we won’t be the first to upload a trailer, we’ll always try to upload the best quality version.

With this promo out of the way, let’s get to the news.

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So the big news this week, according to many in the press, is that Apple has shut down iTunes. But for those that read articles beyond the headline, you will have realised that Apple didn’t really shut down iTunes. For one, those of us who haven’t yet drunk the Apple kool-aid and still opting to use Windows will be stuck with the frustrating iTunes software to do everything from music downloads to software updates to backups (the fact that the software did so much, too much in fact, is one of the key complaints against the much-maligned software).

A screenshot of the iTunes software
iTunes 2001 – 2019: Will not be missed

Secondly, the iTunes store will remain the way it is, still allowing you to download and store your content locally if you still don’t trust the cloud. So the stories of “the end of downloads” are a bit exaggerated, which was never going to happen while Apple is still making money from them (about a billion a year – down a lot from its peak and a fraction of streaming these days, but hey, who says no to a billion dollars, right).

So what exactly are the changes? For one, on iDevices, the iTunes app will be replaced with three different apps: Music, Podcasts and Television. By splitting the bloated iTunes app into three separate apps, it allows each app to be better customized for the user’s needs, and to have an interface that’s better suited for the content in question. You got to remember that iTunes started out as a media player before it morphed into software that attempted to do everything. So it’s a great idea for the three iTunes sub-apps to go back to their roots.

As for how will Mac people do updates, backups and restores? They will find the same functionality that used to be in iTunes as part of the Finder app, which should have been the way from the get-go. I don’t know about you, but I think using a media player to do OS updates and system backups makes zero sense, and it’s something even the worst Windows versions (Me, Vista, in no particular order) didn’t force users to do. So it’s ironic that Windows people are still stuck having to use iTunes to do everything.

Moving quickly away from the beginnings of a Mac vs Windows flame war, and to the upcoming Netflix vs Disney+ flame war, it appears many in the U.S. are already aware of Disney+ despite almost zero promotional stuff so far.

And the awareness to sign-up ratio is actually pretty good, with 22% of U.S. households appear willing to sign up. And a great sign for Disney is that the group with the highest potential sign-up rate is households with kids, which surely has to be the Mickey Mouse company’s main demographic.

A screenshot of the Disney+ interface
Disney+: There’s something there for everyone, but probably not enough to seriously harm Netflix

Also interesting was seeing what kind of content each age group were most drawn to when deciding whether to sign up or not. 35 and older people (me!) were most drawn to the Star Wars stuff on Disney+ (that’s true for me!). 25 to 35-year olds, the group most likely to have young children and most likely to have grown up with Disney animated hits like The Lion King and Aladdin were most interested in Disney’s animated hits. And 18 to 24-year olds wanted to watch the Marvel stuff the most, the studio that has produced the biggest hits for Disney in recent times. It all makes sense!

But Disney+ is still no Netflix killer. For one, Netflix will have content from Warner Bros., Paramount and Sony, while Disney+ will obviously be limited to only Disney branded content. Disney has also said that Disney+ will be more family oriented, and so don’t expect to see series like Sex Education and You, or even the fantastic When They See Us. These would most likely end up on Disney’s other streaming platform, Hulu, if they ever get made. And that’s a big if because Disney’s original production budget is minuscule compared to Netflix’s ($500 million versus $15 billion). If anything, Hulu has a better chance of competing with Netflix than Disney+, especially if Disney decides to throw more content into the platform.

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Well, that’s all we have this week. Until next time!

Weekly News Roundup (May 12, 2019)

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

Happy Mother’s Day!

Not a mum/mom myself, so I have to work today. Which is just as good, as we do have some news to cover, and as I’ll be unavailable for the next two weeks, this will serve as the last WNR for a bit.

I’m still having a lot of fun with my new broadband connection (especially the much faster uploads), so have uploaded many more trailers to our YouTube channel.

I’m putting my knowledge to good use upscaling some of them to 4K (with 5.1ch audio upmix as well), optimizing them for clarity, without making them look (or sound) too artificial. All using free tools that you can download from Digital Digest as well, tools like MeGUI, AviSynth and filters like Nnedi3/nnedi3 rpow2 and SpecWeb.

Anyway, onto the news.

Copyright

There’s a new way to stream pirated movies online, and you don’t have to go to a dodgy site to do so (unless you consider Facebook dodgy, which is a fair point these days). Pirates are using Facebook Watch Parties to stream popular pirated content, such as new episodes of Game of Thrones, and Facebook can’t always get to them as quickly as they should.

Game of Thrones being streamed illegally on Facebook

What Facebook is going through it pretty normal though for a new video platform, which Facebook’s Watch platform/section qualifies as. Pirates will always find a way to exploit a new video platform to host their stuff, and it’s up to the platform to figure out a way to stop them. YouTube has had to deal with it, and Vimeo and Dailymotion are still dealing with it (and not doing as good a job as YouTube). When Twitch first launched, pirated content was everywhere on it, and it’s still there if you look for it, especially for big TV events like the last season of Game of Thrones.

But for all the problems with Facebook these days, this one is probably the least serious. Unless you’re a content owner, of course.

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It may end up being the biggest movie ever, but ‘Avengers: Endgame’ will be “free” to watch for anyone who’s signed up to Disney+.

Disney+ subscribers will be able to stream Avengers: Endgame on December 11

Disney has announced the mega-blockbuster will be available for unlimited streaming on Disney+ in December, one month after the streaming service launches. This follows the previous announcement that ‘Captain Marvel’ will be one of the “launch” titles for the platform, which will cost $6.99 per month.

If the release schedule of the previous ‘Avengers’ movie is any indication, December will be roughly 3 months after ‘Endgame’ launches on home video, suggesting that “three months” will be the typical delay between Blu-ray and Disney+ releases.

Disney is also trying to buy the part of Hulu that they don’t own from Comcast, suggesting the company still have big plans for the streaming platform, even after Disney+ launches.

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That’s all for this week, and for the next couple of weeks. Until then, have a (few) great one(s).

Weekly News Roundup (April 14, 2019)

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

Welcome back to another edition of the WNR. There was sadly not much happening from the week before last, but then things started happening this past week, and here we are.

I think the moment things started happening was when I got connected to my new Internet connection. No longer am I stuck at 3 Mbps on an outdated ADSL connection, I’m now connected to proper broadband that’s bazillion times faster. Granted, it’s still via an outdated HFC connection and not via a superior fibre to the home connection, but beggars can’t be choosers. What’s even better than the download speed is the upload speed – no longer confined to a 1Mbps uplink (which was more like 0.7Mbps in real usage), I can now upload without a care in the world, whether it’s backups, or for Digital Digest, some new kick-ass trailers.

Promo thumbnail for the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker teaser trailer
If you’re keen on wasting a 1.3GB download on a trailer, you now have the option

It would have taken 6 hours before, but it only took a few minutes to upload the Ultra HD teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (it took a bit longer to encode the trailer though). And yes, it’s 1.3GB, but if you were on a super fast connection like I am now, it’s not a worry at all.

Unless you have limited hard-drive space, in that case, you might want to check out our new YouTube trailers channel, and you can watch the Episode IX UHD trailer there too. We’ll be adding more trailers now and then, and some classic ones too.

Oh yes, the news.

Copyright

Pirates may have found a new source for the latest un-aired TV episodes, with a dozen shows falling prey to the latest round of leaks. The leaks include un-aired episodes from shows like ‘The 100’ and ‘American Gods’, and even includes entire un-aired seasons of ‘Ramy’ and ‘The Red Line’. All of the leaks appear to come from promo screeners, which suggests that these advanced previews, meant for industry professionals, have somehow ended up in the hands of pirates.

Poster for American Gods
American Gods – one of the shows that was part of a massive leak of promo screeners

Even though some of the leaked titles does include a person’s name in the watermark, which may point to the original recipient of the screeners, this doesn’t really provide conclusive evidence that this person was the source of the leaks. The screener may have been intercepted before it reached this person or may have been stolen from this person without their knowledge. Still, it may be a starting point for an FBI investigation, if they choose to investigate it.

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And the big news of the week is something we’ve been expecting for a while now. Disney had its investor’s conference, and as promised, they provided more “deets” on their upcoming Disney+ streaming service.

We now know the launch date: November 12 in the United States (next year in Europe and Asia); the price: a low $USD6.99 per month; and that at launch, it will have more than 500 movies and 7500 TV episodes, including some exclusive Marvel and Star Wars shows.

Still from the TV show 'The Mandalorian'
The Mandalorian will stream exclusively on Disney+ for any one willing to pay the $6.99 monthly fee

Most of the original content we already know about, like ‘Loki’, ‘The Mandalorian’ and the still unnamed Diego Luna Star Wars show, but we also have ‘WandaVision’ starring the Avenger’s Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, reprising their roles as Wanda and The Vision. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan will also star in ‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’.

Disney gobbling up Fox also means lots of Fox content will be on Disney+, including every single season of ‘The Simpsons’ (that’s 30 seasons if you’ve lost count), and classics like ‘The Titanic’ and ‘The Sound of Music’.

As for whether Disney+ will be a “Netflix killer”, I don’t know about that. There’s very little overlap in content between Netflix and Disney+, and so they’re more complementary services than competing ones. Netflix will also have a lot more third party content, and a lot more originals too for that matter, so unless you crave Disney/Pixar/Marvel/Lucasfilm originals all the time, Netflix may be a more rounded choice.

Some of our more dedicated readers will remember what I wrote in the March 24 edition of the WNR:

So while Disney shares have fallen since the acquisition was completed, most likely due to the cost of the deal eating into Disney’s short term bottom line, the future is bright for the company. You don’t get financial advice that often here, but I would stock up and hold on to Disney shares with the expectation that 1 or 2 years down the line, this will prove to be a very smart decision. Of course, I have literally zero experience in investing, so you might be better off consulting the Magic Eight Ball (it told me “Most Likely” when I asked if I should buy Disney shares, so there you go).

Disney shares are “only” up 11% following these announcements. You’re welcomed!

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That’s it for this week, it seems. News and financial advice, that’s what you’ll get here. See you next time!

Weekly News Roundup (March 24, 2019)

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

Welcome to another WNR, and this time, you didn’t have to wait a month for another issue!

It’s mostly because there are actually a few news stories to go through, and so let’s not waste any time and get things started.

Copyright

Pirates may have found a way to rip 4K movies from iTunes, as the James Bond Collection of 24 movies have all been leaked online, in glorious 4K HDR quality.

Aquaman
The 4K version of Aquaman was recently leaked online

This follows recent leaks of ‘Aquaman’, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’, ‘Bumblebee’ and ‘The Mule’, also all in 4K, from unknown sources. The James Bond Collection was only available in 4K on iTunes, and so chances are, pirates have found a way to bypass the copy protection normally present on these files (note that Australian streaming outfit Stan also has the James Bond Collection in 4K, but it is a 25 fps encode, different to the 24 fps rip that was ripped).

So far the release group, DEFLATE, has not released any information on the source of these leaks or the method used to obtain these leaks. While there is a small chance that someone with access to the unencrypted source files could be responsible for the leak, but it’s unlikely.

More likely is the case that pirates may have found a vulnerability in the copy protection used for these files or a device used to play these files.

Expect more leaks in the coming days.

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So Fox is now officially a part of Disney, now that the acquisition deal has been officially completed. I kind of expected some kind of Soviet/American troop meeting type scenario involving Fox and Disney staff, for some weird reason, but it’s probably more like this event considering 4,000 people are being let go (sorry, been watching a lot of World War II documentaries lately).

So the Big Six is no more, and we’re left with a Big Five of Hollywood studios. More like the Humongous One, and then the Big Four, since Disney is now bigger than Universal, Paramount and Sony/Columbia combined in terms of market share, and that’s all before Disney starts leveraging Fox’s franchises, merge the Fox and Disney Marvel universe, assumes majority control of Hulu and launches its own streaming platform, Disney+.

So while Disney shares have fallen since the acquisition was completed, most likely due to the cost of the deal eating into Disney’s short term bottom line, the future is bright for the company. You don’t get financial advice that often here, but I would stock up and hold on to Disney shares with the expectation that 1 or 2 years down the line, this will prove to be a very smart decision. Of course, I have literally zero experience in investing, so you might be better off consulting the Magic Eight Ball (it told me “Most Likely” when I asked if I should buy Disney shares, so there you go).

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge @ Disney Land
The old home of Star Wars is now a part of the new home of Star Wars – Disney Acquires Fox

I’m kind of excited as to see what this melding of two movie giants will mean for us film lovers. Apart from the X-Men franchise joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is also the joining of pre The Force Awakens Star Wars movies, for which Fox still owns the home media distribution rights for. Would it be too much to ask for a theatrical version of Star Wars on Blu-ray/4K UHD? Probably yes. How about the 20th Fox fanfare back in Star Wars movies? Another tough ask, I’m afraid.

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So that was the week that was. I really don’t know what the next week will bring, but I’m excited and I can’t wait (and I might have just jinxed it – expect no news at all now). See you in a week.

Weekly News Roundup (February 24, 2019)

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Only a couple of days left in the shortest month of the year, which is just as well, as summer here in Australia has become unbearable. With March comes possibly one of the best seasons ever, and it is also my favourite month as it will be my birthday again. Yes, I’m quite vain and I definitely think this song, and the entire month of March, is all about me.

A little ’70s music trivia aside, we have a few news stories to go through, so let’s get started.

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Well, it may not be the actual end of an era, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it definitely feels like the beginning of the end. Samsung has confirmed that it will stop launching new Blu-ray player models in the US. Initially, it was thought that only 1080p Blu-ray players were affected, but it soon became clear that Samsung plans to stop launching even new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players!

Samsung's UBD-M9500
Samsung’s UBD-M9500 4K Blu-ray player, the last the company plans to release in the US

Those following Samsung won’t be too surprised by the move, as the company hasn’t brought out a new Blu-ray/4K player since 2017. Samsung’s denial of support for Dolby Vision also meant that their players just weren’t what people wanted, considering how popular Dolby Vision is compared to the rival HDR10+ format. The unpopular nature of Samsung’s players, and the fact that the marketplace for Blu-ray players is quite crowded may partly explain Samsung’s decision, but it is still quite a blow for physical media.

That a major CE firm is ending support for such a major disc format, and so soon in the format’s lifespan, does not bode well for the format, or physical media in general.

The decision is also a weird one because Samsung’s TV business is doing quite well, and it’s weird that Samsung would then force its TV owners to seek out a rival brand’s Blu-ray player. With that said, it’s not as if Samsung will stop selling Blu-ray players, but merely not planning on releasing any new models in the future – they will simply continue to sell their last released players, the UBD-M9500 (in fact, the 2016 model, the UBD-K8500, is still for sale too). The fact that there’s not a lot of upgrade potential for Blu-ray and 4K players, probably also contributed to Samsung’s decision.

But buyers not satisfied with a 2017 model will definitely have to look elsewhere.

And part of the reason why Samsung is defocusing from its physical media business is the existence of streaming, and in particular, Netflix. But just because Netflix is dominant, it doesn’t mean there aren’t things that the streaming giant is worried about. Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney+, appears to be one of those things.

Netflix and Disney have previously worked together well as the Hollywood studio used the streaming platform to offer its movies and shows to a wider audience. While this generates some revenue for Disney, it also loses them some in terms of physical and digital sell-through for the same content, but with a wider audience now caught up to the happenings of the Marvel Universe, for example, it has led to higher box office receipts for the studio. There are many terms you can use to describe Disney, but stupid is not one of them.

Still photo from The Punisher
Marvel’s The Punisher cancelled by Netflix, who no longer wishes to help Disney now that the studio is launching its own streaming platform

But this past partnership is now proving to be a problem now that Disney, whether they think so or not, is directly threatening the dominance of Netflix with Disney+. Disney+ will now host much of the same content that has drawn subscribers to Netflix, and will create new content based on franchises that Netflix wish they had.

So Netflix’s steely move to cancel all remaining Marvel co-productions, including ‘The Punisher’ and ‘Jessica Jones’, is a quite understandable one. Better to lose a finger now, than a hand, later.

And the ominous statement following the move from Marvel TV’s Jeph Loeb shows the frenemy side of Netflix and Disney’s relationship, as well as a hint on how Disney will take it to Netflix via its Marvel (and other) franchises. Loeb wrote in response to the cancellations: “Our network partner may have decided they no longer want to continue telling the tales of these great characters … but you know Marvel better than that.”

Wow!

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So while we await the Avengers like epic battle between Netflix and Disney+, we have come to the end of another WNR. See you next week!